As a business owner, you spend much of your time on strategic plans to help you succeed throughout the year (and the years following). This includes plans to attract ideal clients, book more weddings, and grow to the next level. Because every photographer has a different path, how do you know what will work best for you? And, how can you ensure you are happy with the plan you create?

Below, Vanessa Joy, shares her insights into how to define success for you and your business. Take a look to discover Vanessa’s keys to implement today.


I believe, when you’re not taking the time to identify your why and where, you’re setting yourself up to waste time running in circles and ultimately chase the wind.

It’s different for everyone. Everyone has a different vision for their life long-term. Some kind of idea of what they’d like their life to look like, even if it’s only in small pockets of clarity. If you want to start a business, I don’t think you need to make a business plan. Business plans can take too long to create, stifle creativity, and get outdated too often. But, you need business goals to know what you’re working toward.

Image Compliments of Vanessa Joy Photography

To find out where you want to go, you have to figure out for yourself what success looks like to you. To YOU. Not to the photographer you admire. Not to your friends. Definitely not to your family. I love family, but sometimes the need for approval gets in the way of figuring out what you really want.

Related: What are tasks you can take off your list today?

To start defining your success, ask yourself “what really matters to me?” “How do I want to be remembered?” “How do I want to live?” These questions are light ones, so sometimes it helps to think about what you don’t want before you figure out what you do want.


My dad, let me just say, is the coolest dad in the world. He’s where I get my crazy work ethic from, where I hope to adopt a strict but loving role in my daughter’s life, and to top it off he’s a legit Rock Star. As in Myke Scavone, former member of Ram Jam with the hit 70’s song Black Betty, and currently a member of The Yardbirds (whose previous members include Eric Clapton, Jimmy Paige and Jeff Beck) touring around the world wailing on his harmonica, killer percussion and Jagger-like vocals.

When I was about 5 or 6, my dad moved from carpentry into the health insurance field so he could better support my mom, younger brother, and I. While to this day I cherish the smell of spackle, because it reminds me of my dad coming home those days after working on one of the NYC skyscrapers, it was a good decision. But that decision required changes.

Working in the insurance field meant my dad had an office in the home, much like many of you will. Then, sales revolved around phone calls instead of e-mails and social media, so while my dad was home, my mom had to keep the very loud pitter-patter of Lucas’ and my feet away from dad. My mom, Marji, also a very ambitious and hard-working woman, who would later homeschool me and my brother to give us the best education possible, did her best. But, every once in a while, I was able to sneak in to see my dad.

Often, my dad would see me come in and take the time to goof around with me. One of my favorite things to do would be to sit in front of the old Mac he had, turn off all the lights and put on the star screen-saving he had. It was an 8-bit type star screen saver that, especially by today’s standards is the most boring thing in the world. It was nothing but little white dots moving towards you to make it look like you were flying through space. But with me on my dad’s lap, we were flying! He’d make engine noises and lean left and screech right like we were aboard the Millennium Falcon. Let’s just say there’s a reason my brother’s name is Luke.

That wasn’t every day though. It couldn’t be. He was building a client base and serving them and starting from the ground up with no college education in 1990 when a bachelor’s degree meant everything in the career world. One day, I crept into his office and he was on the phone. I knew I had to be quiet so I stood there and waited.

And waited.

Until standing became sitting, and sitting became lying on the floor waiting for my daddy to come and play with me.

That, that childhood memory right there, is how I discovered my why.

I discovered my why by first finding my why not. I knew that I didn’t want to be a mom that had to work so much that she didn’t have time for her kids.

Nowadays, my dad has finally reached a similar goal. He’s worked to financial freedom, provided for his family, can take vacations when he wants, and travel the world being in his dream band. He had a vision, and he got there. But not without putting in the work first and making sacrifices. You do not roll over and start signing autographs overnight (ok, maybe unless you are an actual rockstar like my dad). You start by digging in deep and not stopping until you’re done. As Beachbody Coach Amber says in the 21 Day Fit Extreme, “You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when you’re done.”

Related: Are you on track with your booking goal this year?

My just-turned-two-years-old-yesterday daughter is in the next room playing. She doesn’t know I’m here writing a book to help others do what I can do. But, if she walks in and sees me, I have the freedom to plop down whatever I’m doing and go play with her. My wedding photography business runs so smoothly that unless I’m photographing a wedding that week, I typically only work in that business 2-4 hours a week, with the help of good equipment, a good workflow, and great help. Financially, I’m free of worry and making double what average photographers in my area are earning. I did the work. I made sacrifices. I knew where I wanted my success to be and ran straight towards it. So will you.

Take the time to think about your own definition of success and you should have a clearer vision of where you want to head. This is paramount to the rest of everything you’ll do in photography. No decision for your business should be made without you first determining if that decision is in line with your definition of success and where you want your life to head.


Vanessa provides great insight into how she defines what success means to her and her photography business. What steps will you take today to ensure your business is where you want it to be? To help guide your business plan, focus on tasks you want to work on, and outsource the things you don’t (like wedding photography color correction), download our free Guide: How to Grow Your Wedding Photography Business!

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